galant - Olivier Fitoussi - January 31 2011
Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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It is up to the prime minister and defense minister to decide if Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant can be appointed to Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the attorney general said on Tuesday, in a message he sent to the High Court of Justice.

Galant was designated to succeed IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi this month, however, his appointment has been delayed due to allegations that he seized public lands near his Moshav Amikam home in northern Israel.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said in his message to the court that the findings of the investigation into Galant's case "raise significant legal difficulties for the decision to appoint him."

He added that the responsible parties, being the prime minister and defense minister, must now come to a "logical decision" on the Major General's appointment.

Earlier in the day, Weinstein notified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he cannot defend Galant's appointment as chief of staff due to legal impediments.

Four weeks ago the court justices asked Weinstein to provide explanations regarding two issues in his report on the allegations that Galant had seized public land, which he did Tuesday.

The first issue involves an error on the map of Galant's plot at Amikam, which extended his property by 350 square meters at the expense of public land. The justices want to know the steps that have been taken to correct the error and the timetable for putting everything right.

The second concerns another 35 dunam parcel that was allotted to Galant and the erroneous information provided about it by the state in connection to an early High Court petition, from 2008.

Since last month's hearing State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued his own report on the issue of Galant's land, in response to a complaint by Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan.

Lindenstrauss concluded that Galant had been less than truthful in two documents - an affidavit submitted to the High Court on his behalf and a letter in his own handwriting to the Israel Lands Administration. Weinstein's submission to the court will thus also have to relate to these findings.

Despite Weinstein's ruling, it is highly unlikely that the Attorney General's ruling will put an end to the Galant controversy. Many senior political officials believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Galant himself will continue to fight for the major general's appointment.

Netanyahu and Barak have made it clear that they will not revoke their endorsement of the chief of staff designate unless the court unequivocally rules that Galant cannot be appointed chief of staff.